Here is the full transcript of author and career coach Laura Berman Fortgang’s TEDx Talk: Find Your Dream Job Without Ever Looking at Your Resume at TEDxBocaRaton conference.
Laura Berman Fortgang – Author and career coach
Everybody knows somebody who hates their job. Maybe that somebody is even you.
In fact, half of the people in the United States who work would do something else for a living if given the chance. That’s an epidemic.
Look, I know, it’s hard to change, it’s easier to stick with the devil you know. Walking away from a paycheck and benefits – that doesn’t fit conventional wisdom, and doing something more meaningful – I mean, who wants to make less money? But when I think about this subject, I think of my grandfather, my immigrant grandfather who left Poland, alone, on a boat, at 17 years old, to go to New York City. I wonder what he would think about us talking about being happy at work.
“Happy?” he would say “Happy at work? Put food on the table, that’s ‘happy’. What are you talking about, happy?” My dad, first generation American, he was the first to go to college, the first to have a “good corporate job,” his was the 1960s’ version of being happy at work. But he really wasn’t.
Today, the research shows that to be happy at work, people want to be engaged. They want to have mastery over their subject matter. They do want to know that what they do matters more than the paycheck they get. So, if we know that, why is it that 50 per cent of us can’t figure out what we want to do with our life? I think it’s because when we are in doubt, we look to our resume. We look to our credentials, what we’re qualified to do.
What we’re qualified to do is not necessarily what we’re meant to do. It isn’t necessarily what’s going to bring us satisfaction. Think of an egg, if you will. From a little hummingbird egg to an ostrich egg, all of them are roundish shell. For people, that shell are our credentials, our track record, our accomplishments, and our resume. A lot of us get attached to that shell, it becomes our identity, and that’s what makes it hard to change.
But to get to the good stuff, you have to crack the egg open. Because inside is the yolk, the golden center. That’s where the DNA is. That’s what determines how each egg is unique. For people, I call that yolk their “life blueprint”. Everything that can be taken away is the shell. The status, your identity, what people think of you, the perks, the salary.
But what can’t be taken away is the yolk. That’s where the discovery of career satisfaction can happen. Maybe it’s more important to understand that career satisfaction doesn’t come from what you do. It comes from who you get to be while you’re doing that job. Who your job allows you to be, that’s where the happiness comes from. So, the shell is what you do.
But the yolk is who; who you get to be. When I was in my 20s, I wanted nothing more than to be a Broadway star. Well, I did reasonably well; I got my union card, I worked in reputable theaters, and I gave myself five years to make it, and at year eight, I was still waiting on tables. So, I grew despondent, I really did. I was almost suicidal over the fact that I thought that I failed at the only thing I ever wanted. Why haven’t this dream come true for me? I’d worked so hard, I invested so much. 10 years after I left show business, I had an epiphany about this.
I remembered a scholarship that I was up for, for an acting program where they asked me: “What would be possible if you were successful as a performer?” The answer came to me in a flash. I knew it was like the right answer, the Miss America pageant answer, the eldest child answer, the “I’m going to get the scholarship” answer.
So I went up to the mike and I said, “Well, if I were successful as a performer, people would see me on stage and be moved to change something in their life.” That answer got me the scholarship. But it wasn’t until ten years later when I realized what I really had said; the performer was the shell causing change from the stage. That was the yolk. That was me.
So I hadn’t failed at my dream after all; I just suffered from a misinterpretation of my dream. I needed to allow the dream to change form. I think that’s what’s wrong for a lot of us when we can’t figure it out.
No one’s taught us to pull the dream apart and understand the true significance of it. We’re told we could be anything we want to be when we grow up. But when we go to pick that college major, the question changes from, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to, “How are you going to make a living with that?” We haven’t been taught what are dreams and imaginations really mean to our career trajectory.
John was someone who heard me speak about this concept and he was very skeptical. He said, “Laura, I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do. I’ve had every dream for my career come true. So this cannot possibly hold any weight”.
But at the time we met, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. He was struggling with that. I want to tell you a little secret: I don’t believe anyone who tells me they don’t know what they want to do. I believe they do know; they’re just too afraid to speak it because then they have to do something about it.
Anyway, back to John. Since he challenged me, I said, “Okay, what are all your career dreams that you had come true?” He said, “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician. As a young adult, I wanted to be an architect, then I wanted to change and be in advertising and marketing and be responsible for huge billboards in New York City.” He goes, “And now I want to do something with my love for the outdoors, maybe an adventure travel guide or something.” But he couldn’t reconcile how that fit with the rest of his life. But I could see it.